Sex.com sale halted by bankruptcy

Creditor gets hot and bothered

The sale of what is claimed to be the most valuable domain on the Internet, sex.com, has been halted after a creditor forced the company owning it into bankruptcy.

Three companies, apparently under the control of one individual, filed a simultaneous bankruptcy petition against current owners, Escom LLC, citing total debts of just under $10.1 million (£6.6 million). Under Chapter 11 law, a judge will now have to decide the fate of the Escom's assets, including the sex.com domain.

The domain had been due to be auctioned in New York today, 18 March, with bidders required to prove they had at least $1 million to enter the fray.

Michael Mann, chairman of the three companies that filed the petition, was reported by a third-party source, Domain Name Wire, to have been planning the action all along.

"I am merely an investor who got completely railroaded by other investors with big guns, bad practices, and bad attitudes," Mann was quoted as saying to the title.

There is something about sex.com that refuses to lie down. As former Techworld writer Kieren McCarthy detailed in his definitive 2007 book on the subject, Sex.com, the domain's early Internet career was engulfed by a dispute between rightful owner, Gary Kremen, and would-be nemesis, Stephen Cohen, accused of stealing it from him in extraordinary circumstances.

Returned to Kremen after a lengthy legal battle, Escom LLC paid him $14 million for it in 2006, the second most money ever paid for an Internet domain. The domain will be sold on at some stage, but probably not for months at least.

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John E. Dunn

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